‘Lockdown cannot be the only strategy’- THE HINDU-20-04-2020


This group had caused outbreak of SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2009. It is less lethal than SARS but significantly higher than influenza virus. Finding an antiviral to this virus is not going to happen easily. Currently various antiviral drugs targeted for other virus like influenza are being tried out to treat COVID-19.

One of the reasons is that this virus changes rapidly and gives rise to variants. If you just do a mathematical modelling of how long it will take to stop the epidemic by doing just a lockdown, I think it will be required till June or may be as far as September. In a lockdown you have infected asymptomatic individuals who are staying in their homes and infecting people around them. After the lockdown is lifted they will go out and infect more susceptible people, so there will be resurgence.

The question is whether is it feasible for us to keep extending the lockdown. We have seen the pain that the lockdown has brought, especially to the poor. This should be the aim of the lockdown period.

So the more the testing the better we are prepared to deal with the situation?

I really don’t know if it is possible to achieve such numbers in India. There is an urgent need to test asymptomatic people, people under quarantine or contacts of infected people. Because of high infectivity of the virus the insistence on testing comes into play. ICMR has approved a specific test protocol for COVID-19 which is based on some kits.

These kits are nearly all imported and therefore there is dependency on them. Even using the kits, the pricing should be substantially less. What we are suggesting is alternative testing should be encouraged and the dependence on the imported kits should be reduced. The way such viral transmission is stopped is by development of herd immunity.

Herd immunity is when a large section of the population develops immunity against the virus and thereby stops its further spread. Herd immunity can only develop if people start developing antibodies against the virus.

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